Canada is on the brink of extending its Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) euthanasia program for the mentally ill in two months. However, some activists are pushing for an even broader expansion.
Dying with Dignity Canada (DWDC) advocates for extending MAID to minors, including children aged 12 years and up.
On March 17, 2021, Bill C-7 became law in Canada, marking a big step forward for MAID and end-of-life rights. The next stage was a parliamentary review, which looked into allowing 'mature minors' to access MAID, permitting MAID for those with only a mental disorder, allowing advance requests for MAID, improving palliative care, and protecting people with disabilities.
"In many jurisdictions across Canada, mature minors already have the right to make important decisions regarding their care. This includes the right to consent to or refuse lifesaving medical treatment. In determining any challenges to the presumption of capacity to make these decisions, the courts look to age, maturity, intellect, life experience and the psychiatric, psychological, and emotional state of the minor," DWDC stated.
They also evaluate if the minor comprehends the short- and long-term implications of their illness and proposed treatment, as well as the broader consequences of their decisions, including any impact on others.
DWDC stated on their blog:
DWDC agrees that the existing eligibility requirement that the person have a grievous and irremediable medical condition should apply to mature minors.
DWDC acknowledges that Canadian society will likely expect a minimum age for mature minors in the legislation, even though the emphasis at common law is on capacity and maturity and not chronological age. For this reason, DWDC asks that Parliament amend the existing age requirement of 18 years of age to extend it to persons: “at least 12 years of age and capable of making decisions with respect to their health.” As with adults, there should be a presumption of capacity for these minors.
Recently, Canada has also started allowing assisted suicides in National Parks. We asked Parks Canada multiple questions on MAID and they responded.
"The decision to pursue Medical Assistance in Dying is a deeply personal one. Parks Canada recognizes that many Canadians have personal connections to national historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas. These treasured places can provide physical, emotional and spiritual comfort to those at the end of life," their response read.
"While Parks Canada continues to develop its protocols and guidance with respect to MAiD, we evaluate requests on a case-by-case basis when a person eligible for MAiD would like to pursue this medical procedure at a Parks Canada administered location."
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) states that right now, "people whose sole medical condition is mental illness are not eligible for MAiD in Canada." However, this is set to change in March 2024. Currently, only certain individuals with mental illness may be eligible for MAID if they also have a 'grievous and irremediable' medical "condition that is physical in nature."